\ Coriolan/us

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screens and headphones

screens and headphones

Giving myself a little time and distance to reflect on the realities of our run of Coriolan/us last month, I have been spending some of my days slowly reviewing and combining the continuous camera and headphone feeds that we generated and broadcast live within the work – and which were captured and recorded on the evening of our penultimate performance.

Revisiting the details of these mixes, as they formed and unfolded in real time, I have been consciously avoiding the temptation to be drawn to any of the additional images or sounds – or even colours – of the event of that evening. Just focusing instead, as I layer these various mediated threads back together, on those that we intended within the live action itself – and which we met there, via the two large black and white projections and our personal headsets. Trying simply to reconstruct the specific media window that we had opened onto the things that were happening amongst and around us – without any attempt to represent the place and wider activity of the work in its actuality, or our experience of it.

As a real time record, that often not-so-simple act of reconstruction seems to have left me with something as direct as it is revealing – detailing many of our choices and their consequences, if only across the period of one single complete live performance. And while I made it purely as a personal reference document, here are a few low resolution clips – fragments of scenes lifted from the continuous flow of that whole. Small reminders for those who were there. A very partial taster for those who were not…

 

 

Coriolan/us  – Hangar 858, St Athan, 17th August 2012.

 

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an emptied place

an emptied place

Before more detailed traces and remnants of our Coriolan/us project begin to gather, I thought that I would mark its completion with a quick camera phone image, snapped across that portion of hangar 858 temporarily designated ‘rome’, a few minutes after being vacated by the 350 of us who had populated it for the duration of our final performance last Saturday.

 

hangar 858 chairs

 

After Coriolan/us – Hangar 858, St Athan, 22:00, 18th August 2012.

 

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hangar 858

hangar 858

Today the site for our production of Coriolan/us this coming August has officially been announced – Hangar 858 – a decommissioned WW2 aircraft hanger in St Athan, South Wales. Built in the late 1930’s, and beautifully directly engineered, the vast open space contained and framed below its sweeping single span cast cement ceiling is providing us with both a place to realise this work, and also a context within which we can start to locate it.

On our latest site visit with colleagues from National Theatre Wales we were accompanied by photographer Warren Orchard – and also by Pete Telfer, who will be heading up the team of camera crew working with us live within the heart of this performance, and who took the opportunity to grab some footage for a short video of the visit for Culture Colony.

Here are a few clips pulled from that footage:

 

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Hangar 858, NTW site visit, 01/05/2012 – video courtesy of Pete Telfer and Culture Colony.

 

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some things happen, some things don’t

some things happen, some things don’t

At the heart of any event – memorable or otherwise – something concrete is happening. An obvious statement in itself, but still an acknowledgement that has engaged my thoughts a lot in recent years. And is again.

As I find myself focusing more and more on the structures and behaivours that might balance our intentions for Coriolan/us, I am inevitably asking myself what I might really be wanting to happen there. And over the past few days – as my thoughts have turned towards the crowd of people who will meet us there, and who will ultimately shape each performance of this work – I have again found myself revisiting the intentions and events of past works, particularly those that I have structured specifically to invite and animate social gatherings in public space. Events where the main thing that was happening was simply ‘us’.

Today I have been revisiting something happening / snapshot – the collective title for a series of located interventions that Rosa Casado and I have periodically performed since 2008. A series in which each work proposes a single direct act as the focus and impetus for a social event. At its simplest, these works do something, while spectators are invited to complete the work by entering and being photographed within it – the event taking shape both in the resulting series of photographs, and in the progressive and often strangely accumulative attempts to realise them. The generated images being immediately printed as postcards, and made available to anyone who appears in them.

While digging around in the something happening archive I found a copy of a press release, published one summer evening in 2009, when we were forced to cancel one such intervention. We had planned to step out of a building and walk across the city of Zadar in Croatia, crossing through the busy and narrow streets of its medieval centre, picked out and very visibly tracked by the searchlight of a low flying police helicopter – one of us dressed as a bear and the other carrying a camera. As in similar events, beyond our meeting with the city itself, our task was simply to capture and reveal the series of personel and passing encounters with the bear that would inevitably mark our journey, each within the flash of a single photograph. But as we prepared to start, the police helicopter – the only one available in the region – was called away to support a missing person search in nearby mountains.

Under the title “some things happen / some things don’t”, the press release reads: “Sometimes things happen that allow us to see ourselves. Sometimes events unfold in ways that allow us to recognise our choices and our assumptions. Often these events are at the extremes of our experience. The attempt to make something happen – something that might allow us to meet ourselves, and each other, within the actuality of our daily lives – could be futile. But not hopeless. Our attempt to make something happen in Zadar this evening was simply an attempt to make such meetings more possible – if only for a moment. We tried to combine events and circumstances, in a useful conjunction – a conjunction that might possibly enable much more than merely the sum of its parts. But, in this moment, we failed to overcome the project’s inherent futility. For some of us, the attempt itself has been revealing. But for most of this city, tonight, nothing will happen that wouldn’t have happened anyway. Events will unfold largely as expected. Maybe that is a good thing. And maybe it isn’t. We will try again”. The release is signed “Mike Bookes and Rosa Casado – Zadar, 20:00, August 11th, 2009”.

Along with this statement I found five postcards from the bear’s first outing – a journey through a crowd, of over three hundred people gathered in the unlit clearing of a wood in the middle of the night, in the rural north of Spain. Something in the quality and proximity of these snapshots reminds me what I would like to meet within the field of activity that will become Coriolan/us. The postcards show five simple images, produced at the initiation of an event, as it gathered and orientated itself. They are the only images from that evening that don’t yet show all the other people who were about to shape the work, but only glimpses of the place that it constructed – formed and revealed as a progression of flashlit moments, in the otherwise dark void of that night…

 

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

300 people and a bear

 

A selection of the images generated during 300 people and a bear / snapshot can be found in the archive [ here ].

 

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are we there yet?

are we there yet?

I always look forward to site visits. Even when they are likely to end in disappointment, they are still revealing. The collective decision to step beyond the theoretical that provokes them is always helpful in itself. Looking for somewhere to meet, a place where our intentions might actually happen – in reality – requires a pragmatic engagement with what we might really be doing that can only clarify.

It is always what things are, in their actuality, rather than what they may or may not imply, that engages me.

Both conceptually and culturally, our objectives can increasingly lead us into searches for the simply ‘not wrong’ – for workable relationships with the ‘good enough’, or at least the ‘not bad’ – either in an attempt to embrace all the ambivalence of real things, or simply through necessity.

But a few days ago, stepping out of the car after a long drive to South Wales, I found myself stood in the middle of somewhere – with its particular balance of the difficult and the inspiring – that could actually be exactly what I was looking for. A place with real scale and grand functionality – in this case born of 30’s rationalist architecture and the pragmatism of the period’s heavy engineering – but open and practical enough not to insist on any particular aspect of its own long story.

 

site 858

 

It might even be the right place. Or at least have provided a glimpse of what the right place might be.

 

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¿todo bajo control? [ everything under control? ]

¿todo bajo control? [ everything under control? ]

Rosa Casado and I [foreground] snapped at a successful ‘bring your own wine and headphones’ silent concert experiment in a small Madrid apartment last weekend – courtesy of colleagues Gichi-Gichi Do.

 

Gichi-Gichi 'silent' concert

 

And the sound experiments continue…

 

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located or camping?

located or camping?

As Mike Pearson and I simultaneously turn up the heat on our Coriolan/us process with the new year, trading thoughts over distance for little while longer, it seems that we have reached that familiar turning point where we both start re-asking the hard and big questions – but this time in order to really answer them.

It is a turning point that I always enjoy. The chance to challenge my assumptions, sweep away the debris and start to nail some things down. And then we can really start to deal with the accumulating consequences of our decisions.

For me, at this point, the focus of my challenge is on all things ‘site’. Where might these thoughts and questions really happen? And how might they actually behave there? Do they live where we will meet them? Or are we all just passing through?

But today – in those productive little gaps that open up behind and between the things that I am supposed to be solving, where my thoughts often come to understandings that I wasn’t specifically arguing for – I realise that I have been mainly thinking about caravans. Doodling while I should be doing something else. Starting with a little eighties tourer remix…

 

80's caravan [blue]

80's caravan [green]

80's caravan [brown]

80's caravan [violet]

 

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standing still in cities

standing still in cities

Here are three short fragments of video I have been revisiting – from CCTV surveillance footage recorded by South Wales Police during work that Mike Pearson, Ed Thomas and I were doing together in Cardiff, back in 2002 – and posted simply on the assumption that when something comes into focus enough for me to dig it out of the archive and take another look at it, it probably has something to do with what I’m currently thinking about.

The police had told us that, from the point of view of their surveillance cameras, the most conspicuous thing we could do in the public space of the city centre was to stand still for too long…

 

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…standing still for us in this selection are Russell Gomer, Richard Harrington, and Richard Lynch.

 

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twenty five thousand words, spoken one at a time

twenty five thousand words, spoken one at a time

A day in Cardiff. Mike Pearson and I met a cast of fourteen actors, with colleagues from the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre Wales, for an open cold reading of the full unedited text of Coriolanus, amongst an informal gathering within the public space of the Senedd in Caridff Bay. Culminating, as the building closed its doors for the day, out in the last of the afternoon sun, on the building’s steps.

My sincerest thanks to everyone involved. Being able to meet the text, animated so directly, in public space, was even more useful than I had hoped.

 

Senedd reading #1

Senedd reading #2

 

The generous readers were: Simon Armstrong, Patrick Brennan, Alex Clatworthy, Tomos Eames, Richard Elis, Roger Evans, Bradley Freegard, Nia Gwynne, Derek Hutchinson, Daniel Llewelyn-Williams, Richard Lynch, Nichola McAuliffe, Steffan Rhodri and David Sibley.

 

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enactment + autopsy

enactment + autopsy

THE ASSASSINATION OF LLWYD AP IWAN BY THE OUTLAWS WILSON AND EVANS

 

A couple of months ago, picking up threads from our recent conversations, Mike and I proposed a performance event sustained by the attempt to realise a screenplay live, visibly and with specifically limited resources, within a crowded room. In collaboration with nine post-graduate performance students from Aberystwyth University, we proposed to readdress an unmade screenplay from the Brith Gof archive.

The screenplay, developed by the late Cliff McLucas in 1993, describes a television film narrating the shooting of Llwyd ap Iwan by two outlaws at Nant-y-Pysgod in the foothills of the Andes in 1909, within the context of Welsh emigration to Patagonia from 1865, and drawing on elements from the performance work Patagonia created by Brith Gof in 1992. McLucas’s script combines a complete storyboard of 228 frames, with unfinished texts, soundtrack details, instructions to actors and information on camera movements – and unfolds around the making of a silent film.

The script was never filmed.

On the evening of May 20th 2011, as the culmination of a month long exploration, we made our final attempt to realise the visuals and soundtrack detailed within the script, as faithfully as possible, frame for frame, live and in real time, amongst a crowd of spectators – armed only with four live cameras, an old analogue vision mixer, found and drawn images, printed texts, a selection of objects and models, six live microphones, a loop station guitar peddle, a handful of acoustic instruments, and some fancy dress.

Here is an unedited inline recording of the on-screen material generated in that attempt:

 

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Realised by Holly Dacre-Davis, Melissa Donaldson, Karoline Grushka, Dafydd Hall Williams, Alec Hughes, Lisa Morris, Tilly Phillips, Fraser Stevens and Nik Wakefield; in collaboration with Mike Brookes and Mike Pearson.

 

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welcome

welcome

Following the success of our located production of The Persians, within the landscape of an MOD range in the Brecon Beacons, for the 2010 inaugural session of National Theatre Wales; Mike Pearson and I have been asked to develop a new large scale theatre event based on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, in collaboration with National Theatre Wales and the Royal Shakespeare Company, to be performed within the World Shakespeare Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad 2012.

In its origins, this new work, which we are calling Coriolan/us, draws on Shakespeare’s original text, Brecht’s unfinished adaptation Coriolan, and The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising by Günter Grass.

I am opening this exploratory blog project as an ongoing attempt to see what might build here in parallel to my other processes – and initially to see what might collect here, over the period of this coming year, as we develop Coriolan/us.

As much as possible, I intend to limit myself to simple descriptions, recordings and drawings – as traces and fragments of the things that I remember or do. And to post these fragments as I consider them – their chronology reflecting a progression across the work, rather than its history, or daily life.

There will be many things that I choose to keep to myself – most things probably. I have never been very interested in process for its own sake. Not even when the process is mine.

My hope is simply that, as time and the work progress, my periodic posts here might accumulate – and that their accumulation might reveal something useful. They may, of course, remain merely a pile of fragments. In which case, I will be able to throw them away.